Proper 14B | All Saints Church, Pasadena | 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9
The crusts were saved in a plastic bag in the freezer to take to the Arboretum over in Arcadia to feed the ducks – fat, waddling, noisy old things who lived off the bits and pieces rejected by picky little girls like me.
My early years were filled with an abundance of both bread and people who prepared it to my liking – and it seemed that bread – soft, white and usually smeared with something sweet – was something I would always relate to.
The ingredients were set out, ready to be combined in the big, yellow mixing bowl: flour and shortening, sugar, salt and an egg – and yeast: turned frothy in the measuring cup of hot water. Separate and distinct when lined up on the counter, each of these items would serve a different but essential function when kneaded together into the dough that would become our bread.
The large pile of flour and the tiny packet of yeast were equal in importance: without either of them the final creation would be less than it was meant to be. Mixed together, kneaded and left to rise on the window sill in the afternoon sun and then baked in the heat of the over they would transformed into a new thing – brown and fragrant, crusty and warm – ready to be the food offered to feed both body and soul in a very hungry world.
The volume of the flour many times outweighed the other ingredients – but bread would not have happened if the flour had used its majority status to argue for the exclusion from the mixing bowl of the insistent salt or the disruptive yeast. Each had to play its own role in the process of becoming bread: to be wrenched from its own bag or box or packet or where it was comfortable with its own kind and combined with things which were “other.”
And the bread which emerged from the oven resulted from the interaction of those ingredients as much as it did from the kneading and shaping of the baker or the heat of the oven.
As the church we are called to be the Body of Christ to the world – a body symbolized for us by the bread we break each time we gather – the Bread of Life.
Yet sometimes it is tempting to settle for my childhood relationship with the bread that God has given us. I know there are times when I am still that little girl who wants her bread the way she wants it: safe and familiar and prepared for me by someone else – sweet and with the crusts cut off!
I don’t want to participate in the process: I just want to be fed by what I expect. Sure the ducks can have the leftovers – as long as I get mine first, says the selfish little girl that still lives somewhere inside of me.
But I know God wants more than that from me -- and more than that from all of us. When I baked the bread for communion, there was a radical transformation that took place between the time the ingredients were lined up on the counter and the moment the fragrant loaf emerged from the oven. And God is calling each and every one of us to be open to that same kind of transformation in our lives.
But that transformation will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.
It will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.
There’s a hungry world out there waiting to be fed and we’re the ones who have been called to feed it: both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.
And we live up to that call in to be the bread of life every time we take the message of God’s love, justice and compassion out into the hungry world.
· When we stand for economic justice and a minimum wage that provides dignity to workers in our cities and in our nation.
· When we work to end the plague of gun violence that continues across our country.
· When we support legislation that ends discrimination against any member of the human family
· When we refuse to settle for the increasingly polarized political process that demeans and dehumanizes those who are “other”
· When we march for peace with justice on this 70th anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
· When we proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter on this first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown
· And when we work to liberate women from the sexism that still permeates our culture -- fueling the War on Women we’ve seen on such stark display in the news cycle this week.
We live up to that call to be the bread of life each and every time we challenge any of the above -- and anything else that makes this world less than what the God who created it in love created it to be.
The Good News we both claim and proclaim today is that God has called us to be a new thing – to be a light to the nations – to be part of the Jesus Movement moving the arc of history toward that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather.
And to get there – to become the bread of life we are called to both offer and to be in the world -- we must first be mixed up, kneaded and punched, left to rise and then subjected to the heat of the oven.
That, my brothers and sisters, is the work we ask God to do in us each and every time we gather around this altar to receive the bread and wine made holy and then to be sent out into the world as beacons of God’s love, justice and compassion. Every time we do as Jesus called us to do:
“Take. Eat. This is my body that I share with you. Remember me whenever you eat, and offer your food and yourselves to the world.”
So let us gather. Let us be fed. And then let us go – go out into the world rejoicing the power of God’s spirit … both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.